In Memoriam: Gene White
Gene White

In Memoriam: Gene White

White, global director of vector management, Rentokil-Initial and one of the pest control industry’s leading educators and trainers, died Tuesday, in Honolulu. He was 64.

September 21, 2022

***Updated on Sept. 28, at 8 a.m.***

HONOLULU - Gene White, global director of vector management, Rentokil-Initial and one of the pest control industry’s leading educators and trainers, died Tuesday, in Honolulu. He was 64. White was in Honolulu attending the Society for Vector Ecology 2022 International Congress.

White’s more than 40 years in the pest control industry were mostly spent educating others, whether it was in various technical positions or speaking at industry conferences such as NPMA PestWorld or the Purdue Pest Management Conference.

White was a graduate student at Purdue University where he developed a special bond with Dr. Gary Bennett, retired professor and director of the Center for Urban and Industrial Pest Management at Purdue. The two were lifelong colleagues and friends who would go on outdoor adventures together. Bennett told PCT that Gene was “a special person who was unusually knowledgeable and more than willing to share his knowledge and experience with all who would listen. There is truly a part of me missing with the loss of Gene.”

Another industry professional impacted by White from his days at Purdue is Bobby Corrigan. The two would occasionally teach pesticide certification seminars together, which required them to travel together all week from one city to another. These were long drives that included sharing meals and hotel rooms. Corrigan recalled, “It is those trips that linger for me the most and are among my most treasured memories of Gene. Those times were typically filled with his contagious laughter because Gene loved to tell funny stories and to laugh. Over the years, I grew to learn that it gave Gene true pleasure to bring joy to other people’s days by making them smile and getting them to laugh.”   

A native of the Akron, Ohio, area, White attended Glenville State College (W. Va.), where he graduated with a major in biology and minor in oral communications and was a member of the football team. He eventually found his way to Rose Pest Solutions, Troy, Mich., where he was hired to be a trainer. Among his accomplishments at Rose were helping to create an employee hiring template for technicians and the development and fine-tuning of training programs based on insect identification, which then led to the choice of products and treatment protocols.

At Rose Pest Solutons, White worked alongside Mark “Shep” Sheperdigian, vice president of technical services at Rose, who said he and White “meshed quite well in our abilities and interests.” The outgoing personalities shared a love of theater, which they tapped into to create radio clips and training videos, Sheperdigian recalled.

Sheperdigian said White was someone people naturally gravitated to. “He was always smiling, he was universally friendly and larger than life,” Sheperdigian said. “He was just a big happy guy and that attracted people.”

In 2013, White joined Rentokil North America, where he was hired as technical director for the Central Market, which spanned from Mexico to Canada. Four years later he was hired for the newly created position of global director of vector management for Rentokil-Initial, with responsibilities for creating and improving on the vector management space in the company.

Another reason White was so admired by colleagues was his infectious enthusiasm for entomology. He is remembered for his fun, interactive training sessions which extended into the community. For example, he led the outreach program “The Culinary Bugstitute,” which was part of the Cleveland Metroparks “Bug City” program for 23 years. He would spend a week creating a variety of insect dishes at his home in Michigan and then transport them to Cleveland (a 3-hour trip). In his 2018 Leadership profile, White recalled, “It was an absolute blast. I just had so much fun doing it and I think my enthusiasm helped, and I enjoyed coming up with new recipes. It was a great event to help promote the science of entomology.”

Dale Baker, vice president of sales J.T. Eaton and Pi Chi Omega member. said at his core White “was motivated to be of service. He loved to help people. He loved to educate people. He loved to talk to people. He loved to listen to people. He loved to learn from people. He loved people.”

Gene is survived by wife Janet and his children (Kyle and Karey) as well as Janet’s children (Chris, Kelly and Ryan). He was preceded in death by daughter Kelsey. Ceremony and memorial information were not available at this time.

A celebration of Gene's life will take place Sept. 30, starting at 2 p.m., at the South Lyon Hotel. Memorial donations may be given to Purdue University's Entomology Department. Click here for a link to his obituary.

 

 

 

 

Other Remembrances
I got to know Gene at Purdue, back in the mid-1990s-when he was pursuing his Master's degree. We parted ways after that but we ran in the same circles - PestWorld, Entomological Society of America, Purdue Conf., etc. We would see each other once or twice a year thereafter. The last time I saw Gene was at the NC Pest Management Association meeting in Raleigh a year or so ago, and we discussed his new worldwide vector responsibilities. Gene rose like a star in the industry. Not surprising, given his persona. Whenever I saw Gene he would approach me with a huge smile on his face and talk to me like his long, lost best buddy. We'd mostly talk about hunting, and what was going on at his Michingan home. – Dr. Dan Suiter, extension entomologist, University of Georgia

Bigger than life, passionate, funny, devoted, philosophical and a kid at heart, are just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of Gene. No one loved a story more than Gene, and no one could tell a story better than Gene. I will miss his stories, his friendship, and his encouragement. I only got to see Gene once or twice a year, three times, if I was lucky but every time was special. Some of my fondest memories were catching up with Gene, about family, about work, about life, and there were always great stories. Gene did most of the talking, and I was fine with that. We developed a close personal relationship that involved challenging one another and contemplating where our lives were taking us. While often deeply philosophical, it was always filled with its share of laughs along the way. Days spent at Rockbridge, telling stories, fly fishing, and hanging out at the Red House with friends and colleagues, will be how I choose to remember Gene. It seems impossible that he is gone and I will miss him in ways I cannot express, but it seems fitting that he left us the way he did, living life to it’s fullest. For all of us that Gene left behind life will never be the same, that’s the impact he had, not only on me but for countless others that he touched in a deeply personal way. I keep expecting to be overwhelmed with sorrow when I think about the loss of our dear friend, but every time I think about him, I see his smiling face, hear his boisterous laugh, and am filled with joy thinking of him and the times we spent together. That is gift that Gene gave those of us that were fortunate enough to have had him in our lives. – Rick Cooper, R Cooper Consulting